Healthy Eating continued...
Fast Food Nutrition
By: Ryane Greene, MHS, RD, LDN
Busier lifestyles have caused an increase in the number of times people go through the fast food line. It can be a struggle sometimes to eat healthy when fast food may be your only option. It’s cheap and easy, but not always good for you. There are always more nutritious options to choose from for every meal, and it’s important to think ahead to prevent eating unnecessary calories.
Eliminate Excess Calories
There are several ways to eliminate excess calories, and portion control is one of them. Fast food chains offer different portion sizes, so it’s always best to choose the smallest size. Super sized menu items may seem like a great deal and can be tempting, but the increased calories add inches to your waistline.
In addition, how your food is prepared can save you calories. Is your food grilled or is it breaded and fried? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, ordering grilled chicken instead of fried chicken can save you 173 calories and 11 grams of fat.
Excess calories can also come from liquid calories, so try not to drink your calories. Order water instead of sugary drinks like sodas, sweet tea, and sweetened coffee drinks. Drinking water before hitting the drive thru will also help curb your appetite and prevent overeating.
Be cautious of condiments! Putting mayonnaise on your sandwich or using a creamy salad dressing on your salad can lead you to eat more calories than you’re aware of. When ordering a salad, ask for a vinaigrette dressing. It’s a better choice over a creamy dressing because it’s made with olive oil, which is a heart healthy fat.
If fast food is your last resort, select a healthier option. Try to make your meals complete with whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein (chicken, fish, legumes, etc.), whole grains and low-fat dairy, even when eating on the go. Choose your side items wisely. Most restaurants offer healthier items like fresh fruit or vegetables instead of french fries, or low-fat milk instead of sodas. Order whole grain options when available.
Think outside the box. Deli style restaurants and even supermarkets have better options to choose from compared to the popular fast food chains. Many supermarkets will have pre-cut fruits and vegetables, along with low-fat cheese sticks and yogurts. They have salad bars or you can order a sandwich piled high with fresh veggies. Filling up on veggies is smart because they have fiber and are low in calories. Fiber makes you feel full longer and you won’t eat as much. Just remember not to go overboard with cheeses, meats, condiments and dressings. They will increase the calories.
Have a Plan
Don’t order blindly! Sometimes menus items that make claims that say they are “healthy” are anything but. Always check the nutrition facts before ordering your food. Be aware that most nutrition facts for each menu item do not include the calories for the condiments, sauces, drinks, etc. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed 500 calories at each mealtime.
Thinking ahead might decrease your trips through the drive-thru. Pack a healthy snack like apple slices, hummus and carrot sticks, or mixed nuts to munch on, to hold you over until you get home for a nutritious dinner.
Be prepared for dinnertime dilemmas. Have quick meals prepped and ready to cook on busy nights. Keep staple foods on hand, like whole-grains, beans, and frozen vegetables for an easy weeknight favorite dish.
Use these tips to make healthier choices, and you’ll be surprised at what a difference small changes can make.